October 16, 2019

U.S. administration strengthens its toolbox to fight terrorism

By Guido Lanfranchi.

Eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the United States administration has significantly updated its terrorist designation mechanism. The update – enacted through a Presidential Executive order – will enable the U.S. to step up its campaign to deny revenues to terrorist groups and leaders.

The attacks of September 11th, 2001 ushered in a new era for the United States’ counterterrorism policy. On September 11th, 2019, eighteen years later, an Executive Order issued by President Donald J. Trump is set to step up U.S. efforts to chase terrorists around the world and deny them their sources of revenue. “It’s the most significant update to our terrorist designation authorities since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks” – Mr. Nathan Sales, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the U.S. administration, claimed in a press briefing held on September 11th.

This Executive Order is set to “enhance our ability to identify and sanction perpetrators of terrorist acts worldwide” – according to Mr. Marshall Billingslea, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the U.S. Department of Treasury, who explained some of the modifications introduced by this legislation.

First, while in the past authorities needed to tie a terrorist to a specific violent act in order to target him, this new Order will allow for targeting leaders of terrorist groups, as well as people involved in training activities, without the need to point at any specific act. Moreover, the Order will allow for strengthened secondary sanctions against “foreign financial institutions that have knowingly conducted or facilitated significant financial transactions for sanction purposes”, and it will allow to target “those who are acting for or on behalf of the specially designated global terrorists” – A/S Billingslea explained

Addressing the press, the U.S. officials largely praised the work done by the Trump administration over the last years. Ambassador Sales noted that the current administration has “used our terrorism sanctions more aggressively than any previous administration,” with more than 400 designations since January 2017. As a result, “we have seen a noticeable degradation in the capacity of certain terrorist groups to conduct attacks,” A/S Billingslea claimed, citing ISIS, al-Qaida and Hezbollah as significant cases in point. 

Eighteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. seems determined to continue its war against terrorism across the globe.

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